The Triangle skidded through a slippery Tuesday on ski poles, sled runners and random sheets of tin, enjoying a milder-than-expected day off before a new, possibly record-breaking blast of winter arrives early Thursday.
The storm dumped mostly sleet and freezing rain, leaving a coating of ice that threatened to linger through the week and snarl traffic as single-digit temperatures.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” warned Gov. Pat McCrory. “This is not your typical North Carolina winter storm where the sunshine melts the snow and ice in a day or two. The extended low temperatures and black ice likely will make this a dangerous situation for several days.”
So with most schools out, offices locked and cars parked, the region sought to entertain itself in the wake of winter’s biggest storm so far. As a sign told customers at Cary’s Crosstown Pub & Grill: “Got bread, got milk, now get beer.”
The state didn’t completely avoid weather-related misery.
McCrory said power outages peaked at 63,000 Tuesday before dropping to nearly half that number by late afternoon. More than 100 flights in and out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport were canceled Tuesday.
Drivers largely heeded urgings from McCrory and emergency operations leaders to stay off the roads Tuesday. Department of Transportation cameras showed almost empty interstates around the area.
One tractor-trailer slid off Interstate 40 in Durham County and wound up on its side down an embankment. Firefighters worked to contain fuel leaking from one of the tractor’s tanks. A 19-year-old woman died in a Hertford County crash.
All of the Triangle’s school systems – Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnston, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Chatham and Franklin – will be closed again Wednesday.
‘Our own Mardi Gras’
For many in the region, the greatest challenge came in how to best spend an expected day off. For William King and his Durham housemates, the solution involved navigating the slick sidewalks to Main Street.
“We’re just kind of making our own Mardi Gras,” he said.
Nearby in Durham, Tom Whiteside posted a notice on his neighborhood email list announcing that he’d opened the “Duke Park Sled Co-op.”
“It’s really just me,” said Whiteside, who offers three traditional, metal-runner sleds for neighborhood amusement. “People use them, and then they just bring them back.”
In Apex, the town suggested that parents make use of the quarterly siren test coming from the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant, which blasted out over the snowy rooftops like the call of a lovestruck moose.
“Parents,” read the suggestion on the town’s Facebook page, “since you’re likely at home with your kids today, find some way to use this to your advantage. ... Bad behavior siren? Finish your homework siren?”
Responses from residents were quick and enthusiastic:
• Time to get off the Xbox and go outside to play siren!
• Eat your veggies siren.
• Time to pick up your toys siren.
Though a nuisance, sleet and ice dropped by the storm spared the Triangle from a harsher fate. Had snow fallen Tuesday morning and been less densely packed, it would have stacked up 6 to 8 inches deep, said Chris Hohmann, ABC11 meteorologist.
He expected the ice to persist as temperatures nudge to a high in the mid-30s Wednesday before plummeting to a low of 2 on Thursday. That would beat that day’s record low temperature by 9 degrees. A temperature of 11 degrees was recorded on Feb. 19, 1979.
“The ice is going to hang around at least a couple days,” Hohmann said. “It’s going to take longer to melt.”
Around the Triangle, residents settled in for a slower pace.
Even at the Table of Knowledge, a corner of Aubrey’s and Peedie’s Grill in Wendell where the wisest of the town’s diners gather each day, extra chairs were available in the wake of the storm. No movers nor shakers around town could be roused to face the ice.
“The Table of Knowledge was not full today,” said owner Peedie Edwards. “I think they were afraid of slipping or falling and breaking a hip or something.”
Staff writers Ron Gallagher, Jessica Banov, Johnny Whitfield, Sarah Barr, Will Doran, Nash Dunn, Tammy Grubb and Jim Wise contributed to this report.